What Does a Metabolic Nutritionist or Dietitian Do?
Metabolic nutritionists or dietitians can help create diet plans adjusted to patients’ precise metabolic needs.
·October 12th, 2021
Metabolic dietitians and nutritionists specialize in managing the diets of people who have genetic metabolic conditions (inborn errors of metabolism) and may be able to advise on metabolic syndrome as well.
Inborn errors of metabolism often benefit from diets that avoid certain elements entirely – and a metabolic nutrition professional can guide you to specifically which foods to avoid.
Our dietitian and nutritionist search can help you find a nutrition professional with metabolic expertise to answer your questions.
If you’ve browsed Sound Cycle’s site, you may have seen our listings for dietitians and nutritionists. Many nutrition professionals have a broad spectrum of expertise: they can work with you to address symptoms you’re experiencing, plan around allergies or food sensitivity, or generally adjust your lifestyle.
However, some dietitians and nutritionists choose to specialize in a focused subset of the profession. Metabolic dietitians are one such specialization, helping to create diet plans adjusted to patients’ precise metabolic needs. Not everyone can benefit from a metabolic nutritionist or dietitian, but for those who can, their impact can be life-changing.
What is metabolism?
At the most straightforward level, metabolism is a body process, or set of processes, that convert food to the energy that you need to go about your day. Your body converts the calories from what you eat and drink into energy at a rate that’s specific to you.
A lot of this rate is determined by factors like your age, gender, and size, and may change over the course of your life. Metabolism is a critical process for life, but it doesn’t always work perfectly. Some people may have genetic issues with metabolism that limit their body’s ability to break down certain foods.
Others may have health conditions that impact the body’s metabolic rate. For many of these people, a metabolic dietitian or nutritionist may help improve their symptoms and manage their health.
What types of genetic metabolic conditions are there?
Inherited metabolic disorders, or inborn errors of metabolism, happen when genetic defects create issues with the body’s metabolism, often due to an enzyme deficiency. This results in a buildup of the ingredients the body can’t process, which can have progressively negative effects.
Most inborn errors of metabolism are not curable, but individual symptoms can be treated. One treatment for some inborn errors of metabolism is following a strict diet, in order to slow the buildup of the ingredients that cannot be processed.
Phenylketonuria: Phenylketonurics are not able to process a specific amino acid, phenylalanine, due to a missing enzyme. While phenylketonuria can be serious, early adoption and strict management of a diet low in phenylalanine with other supplemental proteins can prevent symptoms from developing.
Maple syrup urine disease: Similar to phenylketonuria, in maple syrup urine disease, a specific enzyme complex is missing that prevents the breakdown of certain amino acids. A modified diet that limits certain amino acids and supplements with other proteins and in some cases thiamine can help manage the condition.
Hemochromatosis: In genetic hemochromatosis, the body absorbs too much iron. A modified diet that avoids iron, like that found in red meat, can help control symptoms.
Glycogen storage diseases: Glycogen storage diseases affect the body’s ability to synthesize or breakdown glycogen or glucose. Depending on the type of glycogen storage disease, symptoms can be managed by medicine or diet modification, such as by eating small, frequent meals high in carbohydrates or cornstarch.
The above conditions are a subset of inborn errors of metabolism that are known to respond to dietary changes. Other conditions and chronic diseases may also benefit, depending on how they affect the body.
For example, if you have digestive issues, food allergies or a food sensitivity, a metabolic dietitian can also help with counseling, meal planning and overall improving your quality of life.
How can a metabolic nutritionist or dietitian help your gut issues?
General dietitians and nutritionists may be able to create meal plans, but metabolic dietitians bring a wealth of focused expertise, and can work as lifetime partners in managing these conditions through nutrition counseling and customized clinical nutrition plans.
Given the specificity of each inborn error of metabolism, the recommended diet varies significantly based on the missing enzyme or error that is involved, as well as based on how the condition manifests in each individual.
If you or someone in your family has an inborn error of metabolism, you may have already been connected with a metabolic dietitian or nutritionist through a hospital or medical clinic.
What is metabolic syndrome and can a metabolic nutritionist or dietitian help?
Metabolic syndrome, while similarly named, shares little in common with inherited metabolic diseases. Metabolic syndrome affects more than one third of all Americans. It is not a specific disease, but rather a set of factors that increase your risk for weight gain, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other conditions.
Large waistline: A measurement of at least 35 inches for women, or at least 40 inches for men.
High level of triglycerides: Triglycerides of at least 150 mg/dL, or taking medication to control triglycerides.
Low level of HDL (high-density lipoprotein, sometimes referred to as “good” cholesterol): HDL levels less than 40 mg/dL in men or 50 mg/dL in women, or taking medication to control HDL levels.
High blood pressure: Blood pressure of at least 130/85 mm Hg, or taking medication to control blood pressure.
High fasting blood sugar: Fasting blood sugar of at least 100 mg/dL, or taking medication to control blood sugar.
Dietitians who specialize in inherited metabolic diseases may also be able to help you address metabolic syndrome, but general dietitians and nutritionists can as well. There are several potential diets recommended for metabolic syndrome, including diets low in carbs or sugars, low saturated fats, and with other emphases.
It’s always best to consult with a nutritionist or dietitian to identify the diet that could be the best fit for you. Metabolic syndrome often coexists with other health conditions, like PCOS, IBS, and diabetes. Because of this, many people with metabolic syndrome benefit from a holistic approach to their medical condition, including finding a diet that improves their symptoms across the range of conditions they’re experiencing.